Friday, June 17, 2011

History of Mindanao Part II: Captain Isidro Rilla, Insurrecto, Circa 1902

In my previous History entry I focused on a great unsung hero of Mindanawon, neigh,even Philippine History, Insurrecto General Rufino Deloso who commanded a force of 400 plus men in the Anti-American Insurgency, from March 1900 until his surrender to the Philippine Constulbary in March of 1902. In this entry I will focus on one of Deloso's underlings, Captain Isidro Rilla. During Deloso's liason with the Maranaw (Maranao) Chieftians around Lake Lanao things had gotten so bleek as to warrant Deloso undertaking a loan from one chieftain for the absolutely astronomical sum of what Deloso said was $500 in gold. Needing a hostage to ensure repayment Deloso left Capt.Rilla. In the book,"The Great White Tribe in Filipinia" (Cincinatti: Jennings and Pye) (New York: Eaton and Main)(1903) the author Paul T.Gilbert included a short recounting of this episode in Capt.Rilla's own words.

Before beginning, I wanted to point out to readers two very salient points in both this and my preceding History entry; in Capt.Rilla's own words, and I quote verbatim, "The Moro tribes, because they recognize no ruler but the local datto, are unable to accomplish anything of national significance. Concerted action with them is impossible." It is an absolutely important point to take away. This is exactly why the young Muslim intellectuals of the late-1960s devised the whole "Bangsamoro" fantasy. Unless Filipino Muslims overcome their petty tribal and regional differences they will never amount to anything ON THEIR OWN. If instead they become attuned to Filipino Culture at large they may be able to accomplish great things.

The second point? Filipino Muslims love to label all Christians on Mindanao as "Settlers." The Filipino Government, in my estimation, is almost criminally negligent in not educating ALL Filipinos as to the true history of Mindanao. Muslims have never lived in more than a tiny coastal area in the southwest portion of the island. They never "ruled" Mindanao and Islam itself came to Mindanao at almost the same time that Christianity arrived on the island (remembering that Magellan erected a cross at Butuan). Filipino Muslims truly need to study objective, mainstream history.

I included explanations on three specialised bladed weapons, by using all capital letters in parentheses immediately after the word. At the bottom I will include a short gloassry for antiquated or Spanish words so readers can fully comprehend the narrative. Also, the "Lake" being discussed is Lake Lanao.


Chapter XV: "Captain Isidro Rilla's Narrative"

I was to have been educated for the Church; but after studying for some time in Cebu prepatory to a course at Rome, I set aside the wishes of my parents, who desired that I become a Jesuit, and took unto myself a wife.

You wonder, probably, why we Visayans, who are very peaceable, should have assumed a hostile attitude toward the Americans. Of course, we do not really like the game of war. But what positions would we hold among our own communities if we were to be easily imposed upon? You would have thought it a queer army that assembled at Mt.Liberdad in 1901,-barefooted hombres, ignorantes from the rice-pads and the hemp-fields, armed with cutlasses and bolos- for we had no more than fifty guns- undisciplined and without military knowledge, but the appearance of your army in the War of Independance caused amusement to the British soldiers- for awhile? The Government generously recognized a number of the leaders of the insurrection, and in doing so has not done wrong. Our leaders are to-day, among our people, what your patriots are in your own land. And even you have no respect for those who hid themselves among the women during the affair at Oroquieta. Left alone, we could soon organize our government, our schools, and army. But, of course, conditions render this impossible, and so we think American protection is the best.

You ask for some account of my experiences with the Moros during our excursion to their territory. Our army was at first five hundred strong, but nearly half the men deserted on the way. We had not counted on so much hostility among the Moros, although they are ancient enemies of ours, until very recently they have raided our coast villages and carried off our people into slavery. But when we wanted slaves we purchased them- young Moros- from their parents at Misamis.

Though our mission was an altogether friendly one,our hosts did not let any opportunity go by of taking an unfair advantage of us. General Rufino was obliged to leave me as a hostage at Uato at the home of Datto Bancurong.

If we could have effected an alliance with the Moros, it would no doubt have been a formidable one. The Moros are well armed and expert fighting men. Most of our weapons have been purchased from them, as they had formerly acquired a stock of stolen Spanish guns. Those living in the Lake Lanao vicinity must have about two thousand Remington and Mauser guns, beside a number of old-fashioned cannon, which are mounted in their forts. They manufacture their own ammunition, which is necessarily of an indifferent quality.

We told the Moros that they would all have to work if the Americans should come. We knew that they were all slaveholders and ladrones; we knew that while they kept their slaves they would not need to work; and so we thought our argument ought to appeal to them.

I was left with Datto Bancurong, security for the five hundred pesos that Rufino had been forced to borrow, I was treated with considerable hospitality. At one time when I had the fever, he secured some chickens for me,- they were very scarce. The datto had three wives, but one of them was rather old. I did not notice any ornaments of gold upon them. They wore silver rings and bracelets, which the native jewelers had made. The women are industrious, and consequently do most of the work. They are quite skillful with the loom, and manufacture from the native fabric, ampic (sashes) which their husbands wear. But for themselves they buy a cheaper fabric from the Chinos, which they dye in brilliant colors and make into blankets. You would probably mistake the men for women at first sight because of their peculiar cast of features. They are dressed much better and more picturesquely than the women, wearing bright silk turbans, sashes with gay fringe, and blouses often fancifully colored and secured by brass or mother-of-pearl buttons.

The Moro tribes, because they recognize no ruler but the local datto, are unable to accomplish anything of national significance. Concerted action with them is impossible. Thirty or forty villages are built around the lake. They are so thickly grouped, however, that one might as well regard them all as one metropolis. The mountains form a background for the lake, which is located on a high plateau. The climate here is more suggestive of a temperate zone than of a place within 400 miles of the equator, and the nights are often disagreeably cold. To become a datto it is only necessary to possess a few slaves, wives,and a carabao. A minor datto averages about four slaves, a dozen head of cattle and two wives. He wears silk clothes,and occupies the largest nipa house.

The Moro weapons are of several kinds- the punal (PRONOUNCED"POO-NYAHL,"A WEDGE BLADED KNIFE), the campalon [SIC] (KAMPILAN IS THE ACTUAL SPELLING, A LONG BROADSWORD), and the sundang (ALSO KNOWN AS a KRISS). They also use head-axes, spears, and dirks. Being Mohammedans, they show a fatalistic bravery in battle. It is a disgrace to lose the weapon when in action; consequently it is tied to the hand. Many of their knives were made by splitting up the steel rails laid at Iligan. The brass work of the Spanish locomotives, also, was a great convenience in the manufacture of their cutlery.

Although they have schools for the boys, the Moro people do not make a specialty of education . The young men are taught from the Koran by priests, who also teach the art of making characters in Arabic. Their music for the most part is religious, inharmonious, and unmelodius. The coluctangn their most important instrument, resembles our guitar. They seem to recognize three grades of priests- the emam, the pandita, and sarip, named in order of superiority. Their churches are great, circular enclosures, made of nipa and bamboo, with no attempt at decoration. Sacred instrumental music is supplied by bells and drums. The drum at Uato, where I was, being of extraordinary size,required two men to operate it.Each town contains a large percentage of ladrones,whose influence is offset by the pandita (or elders) three or five for every barrio. These are the secondary priests, and it is necessary that they go into the church three times a day to pray.At sunrise, at midday, and at sunset they will cry repeatedly, "Allah! Allah! Bocamad soro-la!" All the priests wear bright robes like the dattos, but the clergy is distinguished by a special bangcala, or turban, which is ornamented by a string of silver rings.

There are about five hundred Filipinos living with the Moros, mostly slaves. Deer, jungle-cock, wild hogs, and cattle are to be found in the plains and forests near the lake. The soil is fertile, and sufficient crops of corn,rice,coffee,and tobacco may be raised,Camotes (wild potatoes),fruits,and cocoanuts are very scarce.

Though many of the dattos are disposed to treat the Americans as friends, three in particular will entertain a different attitude. There are Bayang, Mario, and Taraia, who, among them, have control of many men, They realize, however, that the new invaders will be harder to oppose than were the Spaniards of the former laissez faire regime.The Filipinos will,of course,be glad to see the Moros beaten in the conflict that is now inevitable.

To conclude my narrative, we finally got the better of our hosts, the enemy. The Moros wanted. $1,500 in return for the $500 they had loaned Rufino. "Then you must let the hostage come to his own people," said Rufino," so that he can use his influence among them and solicit funds; for otherwise we will not ransom him. "The situation did not look so very bright for me; but at a conference of the interested dattos they reluctantly decided that I might depart. Eight Moros were appointed to accompany me as a body-guard. On reaching Iligan it was requested that the post commander furnish me an escort back to Oroquieta, which was done. The Moros profited so much by our excursion, selling us good will and rice, that I am sure they will forgive us for not paying them the ransom money, which is no more than the brokerage on a small loan.

Ignorantes: Spanish for "dullards" or "dummies"

Ladrones: Spanish for "brigands," "bandits," or "thieves"

Barrio: Spanish for "neighbourhood" though in this sense it is the predecessor to the current term "barangay"

Koran: An alternative English spelling of Qur'an, the Muslim Holy Book comparable to the Christian Bible

Dirk: Antiquated English for "dagger"

Datto: Malay form of "Datu"

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